The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Tim Seibles impresses audiences with his unique poetry

On Wednesday, March 19, Chatham University hosted a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) poetry reading with author and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, Tim Seibles.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Seibles is currently a member of the English and MFA faculty at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia–a post that he took after years of teaching English in a high school in Dallas, Texas. Seibles’ latest book “Fast Animal” was one of five finalists in the poetry category of the 2012 National Book award.

As evening approached, audience members gradually began filing into the Mellon Living Room, where the event was being held, eventually filling the room to the brim. The excitement was tangible, and everyone eagerly awaited the reading.

At 5 p.m. Seibles took the floor to introduce himself, and give a bit of background for the excerpts he would be reading. His voice had a smoky quality, reminiscent to that of a Jazz singer, and it filled the room as he began reading selections of his rather unique brand of poetry. As he read, his speech lifted the words off of the page and gave them life, often echoing the erotic undertones and themes of the poems.

Seibles began with a poem entitled “Fearless” which was an exploration of spring, with references towards human nakedness and rebirth. From there the reading took a sharp turn with the piece “Ode to my Hands”, which was exactly that. Describing his hands in such ways as “five-legged pocket spiders”, “knuckled starfish”, and “five-headed hydras”, he joked that the poem was written in the style of Neruda, the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician.

From there he moved to a slightly more serious subject matter, reading his poem “In a Glance”, which told the story of a beautiful women whom he passed in a hallway, and the fleeting moment in which they caught each other’s eyes. The poem was a poignant telling, and included the line “the lovely shape of a mind unshaved by reason”, which essentially captured the essence of the piece.

Among the eclectic mix of deeply, emotionally moving pieces, and the slightly more light-hearted selections, Seibles explained that his favorite style of poem was the villanelle, because their structure was like Blues music in that they’re both repetitive, and they both have roots in labor. An example of one of his villanelles was the “Zombie Blues Villanelle”, which had everyone in the room laughing out loud. Likewise, his poem “The Dancing Villanelle”, which included the line, “I’d like to receive a nice blow job in France”, had the audience equally amused.

After the reading Seibles held a short question and answer session in order to answer questions about his works, and his writing process.

In answer to an inquiry about how to balance work and writing, Seibles explained that it is important to start by writing, and then once all of the fun stuff is out of the way, the work can begin. In response to a question about why he likes villanelles he explained that, despite the fact that he bends the rules a bit, villanelles make poetry sound like singing. As he said, in poetry, “syntax is like melody”.

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